Because caffeine contains antioxidants, it is used in a number of anti-aging products. In fact, Indonesians have long used coffee in spa body scrubs, and now you can purchase a variety of different skin care products containing caffeine. Caffeine does have some benefits when applied to your skin and may perk up your complexion, as well as perking up your body.
Caffeine is produced by plants and occurs naturally in coffee and tea. It is added to some soft drinks and even prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as skin care products. Taken internally, caffeine stimulates the nervous system and is considered safe in moderate amounts. However, large amounts can produce negative effects, including dehydration and shakiness. The tolerance for foods and beverages containing caffeine varies from person to person.
Caffeine's ability to constrict small blood vessels and reduce inflammation is an asset in a number of creams designed to minimize dark circles and sagging skin under the eyes. These same anti-inflammatory qualities serve caffeine well as an ingredient in cellulite creams, where caffeine's ability to cause dehydration is put to good use drawing excess fluid from fat cells to improve the skin's appearance.
The effects of cellulite creams containing caffeine are not permanent and disappear when you discontinue use of the creams, according to aesthetic medicine specialist Dr. Yves Hébert. Eye creams containing caffeine may provide some benefit, but cannot change genetics. When coffee berry extracts are used as antioxidants, they may cause breakouts, says University of Miami dermatology professor Dr. Leslie Baumann.
The ability of the skin to absorb caffeine as a topical agent is a subject of clinical investigation. In 2009, researchers published the results of such a study in the British Journal of Pharmacology. They compared in vitro and in vivo studies to determine whether caffeine applied to the skin of a living person (in vivo) penetrated skin in the same manner and to the same degree as caffeine applied to experimental skin samples (in vitro). They found that it did not, with caffeine penetrating living skin more deeply and in a different manner. Keep this in mind when considering effectiveness claims of skin care products containing caffeine.
Researchers are studying the potential use of caffeine in skin care products to prevent and possibly reverse the damaging effects of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Mouse studies have shown that topical application of caffeine can cause cells damaged by radiation from the sun to “self-destruct.” In the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers reported in 2009 that they are closer to being able to exploit this finding as a potential treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancers.